13 AUG, 2015

Six Ways to Engage Employees in Customer Service

Fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm might remember one great episode in which Larry David indignantly proclaims to a fellow customer demanding to sample several types of gelato before placing her order that, “An employee is told that the customer is always right. In fact, the customer is usually a moron and an a*$hole.”

Anyone who has ever worked with customers will get a chuckle out of this statement, because it’s often true. Even if the customer is polite and has the best of intentions, once you know a product or service inside and out, it becomes hard to empathize with people who know nothing about it, as they ask questions that are seemingly “stupid,” and demand things that seem unreasonable to those who already know the rules. Dealing with these requests day in and out can really take a toll on employee engagement.

Below are six ways to engage employees in customer service:

  • First of all, don’t hire people who aren’t good with people. Not everyone is cut out for customer service—be sure you hire people who are friendly, personable, and patient. Ideally, they should be “people-pleasers” who enjoy helping others.
  • Empower them to take action. Often, customer service agents are reluctant to help customers solve a problem because it’s actually hard for them to do so. They might have to call in a supervisor or get special approval, which will interrupt their workflow and become a headache. Empower your agents to get things done on the spot whenever possible, without unnecessary red tape or road blocks. The employee and the customer will both be happier for it.
  • Encourage them to log repeated issues, inquiries, or complaints, and do something about them. There is nothing worse than answering the same questions over and over again. Ask your agents to keep a log of questions they get very often, and work with your product team or operations to fix those issues within your product or service. For example—if your customers are constantly calling in because they are unable to find a particular feature in your software, redesign your interface to make sure that feature is more easily accessible. Adopting this process will improve your service while showing your customer service team that their input matters. They’ll be more likely to share helpful information.
  • Offer incentives. Add a little friendly competition by offering incentives for best post-service satisfaction scores or fewest number of repeated calls about the same issue. Just be sure that you’re aiming at the right behaviors. If you offer an incentive for shortest call times, for example, you might just be encouraging your employees to rush customers off the phone rather than truly solving their problems.
  • Create projects. Sitting in front of a computer screen and answering calls and emails for 8 hours straight can be mind-numbing, especially if the inquiries are fairly simplistic. Try to break up your customer service team’s work week with other administrative projects that help with productivity while providing a welcome change.
  • Encourage professionalism, but let them blow off steam. You should never foster a company culture where customers are thought of as a nuisance or “stupid,” because they are the people keeping your doors open! However, we all need to joke around every now and then to keep our sanity. Don’t sweat it if you hear employees making fun of a caller every now and then, or complaining to each other about how annoying it is when a customer says this or that. A little bit of that is healthy; you should only be concerned if it starts to affect their work or their demeanor with customers.

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